America is a very big country. As a first time traveller, its size can overwhelm you. The U.S states are the same size as many European countries, and moving cross country can take from a couple of hours to days, depending on what mode of transport you are using.
New York City and Los Angeles are over 2,000 miles apart and it could take more than a day and half of continuous driving to get from one city to the other. By flight, it would take almost 6 hours.
As a newbie traveling to the U.S, it is important to know if your country is among the visa waiver countries (see here), for which it would be mandatory to apply for an esta visa before you enter America.
Traveling around the United States by air is not as easy as it used to be. Life in America can be described as pre and post 9/11, and air travel regulations have changed a lot. In spite of the seemingly complicated processes involved, it remains the fastest and most reliable way to get around the country.
Getting tickets online is just as easy too. Below is a simple guide to take you through ticket purchase, packing and other necessary information you need to know about air travel. The key, as always, is to prepare well ahead of each trip.
There are two ways to purchase a ticket, you could either go straight to the airline’s website or do so via a third party travel website. This may be the simplest but generally more expensive way. Most times, the ticket you buy on an airline’s website can be obtained at cheaper rates on travel websites. Many renowned travel websites often offer discounted air plane tickets. For tips on how to obtain cheap airline tickets, visit here.
Once you have obtained your ticket, check the airline’s website to verify its specific luggage weight and size policies. Before, most airlines permitted one checked bag weighing a maximum of 50 pounds and two carry-ons (perhaps your laptop and another smaller bag/suitcase), now some airlines have introduced a checked luggage charge of $15 – $50 per bag. However, the permit may differ from airline to airline.
For instance, American Airlines can allow you to check up to 10 bags if your trip is domestic, transatlantic, transpacific, and 5 bags if you are traveling to, from or through Mexico/ Caribbean/ Central America, South America and Brazil. And for their weight and size restriction, for all regions; your checked baggage allowance is 62 in/158 cm (dimension) and 50 Ibs/ 23 kgs (weight). This may vary for certain routes.
For a more in-depth comparison among airlines.
- Getting to and from the Airport
Many airports have various airport taxi companies and shuttle buses, and for a fee, will transport you and your luggage from your apartment/hotel to the airport. Airport websites usually have web links and phone numbers for taxis, public transport and car rental services. It is highly recommended that you arrive at the airport at least one hour to your scheduled flight for trips within the United States.
When you arrive at your destination, your hotel may have a free airport shuttle available, make sure you check this early enough. Let them know when you are arriving so that they can reserve a seat for you.
Some popular airports and their distance from the main city.
Miami: The airport is located 14 km northwest of the city. A metrobus is available for passengers, and it connects them through to the triple-rail commuter train.
JFK Airport (New York): The airport is about 24 km southeast of Manhattan. An AirTrain links the airport with the area’s rail system 24 hours every day.
Los Angeles: Its airport is about 24 km southwest of the main city. A free shuttle service takes you to the metro. There is also public bus going to different destinations from 75 cents.
If you are traveling alone, or for the first-time and you love meeting new people, it might be a good idea to try an organised tour. The experience will be truly rewarding.
As with anything, it is the planning that will make or break your trip. Get it right and you needed feel the pressures and stresses that many other air travellers experience.